Making your way around Android apps on BlackBerry 10

Android app BlackBerry
By Adam Zeis on 22 Feb 2013 10:38 am EST
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One of the awesome things about BlackBerry 10 is the ability to run Android applications - either ports downloaded from BlackBerry World or apps you sideloaded yourself. Technically these *are* BlackBerry apps when you install them, since the Android .apk files have been converted to .bar files, but the apps are essentially all Android and run within the Android App Player environment on BlackBerry 10.

Right now the Android App Player on BB10 is running Gingerbread (Android v2.3), but support for Jelly Bean (v4.2) has been announced and is coming soon, which should see a further boost in the performance of how well ported Android apps run on BlackBerry 10. Even now, the apps mostly run well and often times you can't even tell that they are Android aside from parts of the UI.

One catch you might find is that navigating them can be a bit troublesome at times if you don't know what you're doing. Prime example - I handed my BlackBerry Z10 off to my wife while it was in an Android application. Less than a minute later she was asking me "how do I go back?". If you're a bit stuck using Android apps on your BlackBerry 10 device, keep reading and we'll break it down for you.

Making your way around Android apps on BlackBerry 10

There's nothing wrong with using Android apps on BlackBerry 10. There are tons that have been ported over and are readily available in BlackBerry World, and sideloading is a great way to use apps that aren't yet available for BlackBerry. So don't be ashamed, we all do it.

First things first. How do you even know if you're using an Android app?

There are a few key things to be on the lookout for that are sure signs of Android. 

  • The app starts on a black screen with a BlackBerry logo and/or takes a bit to start up
  • The navigation UI doesn't look like that of BlackBerry (ie. different fonts, icons, colors)
  • You see the Android navigation bar pinned to the bottom of the screen
  • You can't navigate by swiping with the standard BlackBerry gestures
  • You already know it's an Android app

Once you know if you're actually using an Android app - there are a few ways to navigate around. A lot of the native BlackBerry 10 gestures won't work here, so you just need to keep in mind a few important gestures that will work inside Android apps. You can still tap around as usual, but finding the settings or going back takes a bit more work.

First, swiping down from the top bezel will reveal the Android navigation bar (if it's not already showing). On the bar, you have the option to go back, pin the bar (so it never hides) and an overflow menu.

Android Nav Bar 

Back - the back button does just what it says - goes back. This is the easiest way to go back when in an Android app. The other way is by swiping on a diagonally from the bottom right of the screen up and to the left. You can see the direction of the swipe in the screens below.

Android Navigation  Android Navigation 

This is perhaps the gesture you'll use most so learn it, love it and live it. Use this to go back from pretty much anywhere within an Android application.

Info - If you forget the swiping back gesture, check out this info screen as it shows an animation on just how to do it.

Pin Bar/Hide Bar - tapping this will let you pin the navigation bar so it's always shown. Alternatively, after pinning this will change to Hide Bar - so you can always hide it again if you want. When hidden, you can show the bar again by swiping down from the top bezel.

Overflow - The overflow (3 dots) icon will bring up the application menu (providing the app has one). The menu is typically in the form of a dropdown, so when you tap the icon you'll see a menu appear and you can go about your business.  

There's not much else to it. Getting around inside Android apps isn't too difficult, but if you aren't used to the gestures there may be a bit of learning to it. Soon enough you'll be a gesture master!  

How to sideload Android apps from Windows
How to sideload Android apps from a Mac 

Reader comments

Making your way around Android apps on BlackBerry 10

42 Comments

my galaxy nexus is running JellyBean 4.2.2... do you mean the next update for the Android Runtime will be 4.1? :P

Why not develop for BB10 instead of porting another OS apps, why not by an android if you want the apps?

Why ask why, try bud dry.

For real though, some people want a BlackBerry phone and want apps that are only available from an Android Port. People don't want an Android phone because they want Android Apps. They want an Android phone because it is a nice phone and has apps. That is what BlackBerry is trying to do. They built a great phone but it needs apps. Having the Android porting ability only makes it easier to fill those voids.

I'm afraid the Android porting option will end up killing the BlackBerry 10 OS.

BlackBerry has to be careful with what they're playing here.

As long as this player exists, no matter how good the OS is the player will be a thorn in BB's eye. It gives all the anti BB bloggers ammo no matter how well the phone does

Disagree completely. The Android player makes my PlayBook way more useful. It has given me access to dozens of useful apps that would otherwise not be there. I don't see how this is a negative unless your intent is to just be negative. If you don't want to use Android ports, then delete the apps and don't sideload. But then again, then you don't have the apps you want.

Obviously, everyone would prefer the best native apps out there. But it ain't going to happen at this point.

I disagree with you completely. The whole premise of Android on either the Playbook and BB10, for me, is a problem. While it can be argued that it brings in (questionable) apps to the ecosystem; the quality of these apps, particularly on the Playbook, was utter garbage.

The whole "Android experience" was frustrating and ultimately futile - it served only to supply consumers, who were begging for quality apps, with nothing but a long stream of bastardized versions with poor performance.

The other reason I detest Android for BB products is that its used as an excuse by developers and companies to not make a native app and yet still claim they support Blackberry. I see this as insulting. Yet again, Blackberry users are treated like someone's poor, unwanted cousin who is reluctantly given an invitation to come to the family Christmas dinner - and the family secretly hopes they don't show up.

At the very least, if Android is going to be around on Blackberry, there should be a clear way to indicate which apps are native and which apps are Android before you spend any money on them within Blackberry World.

I totally agree with you. Android apps on PB were quirky at best. They "worked" but this isn't a solution for long term.

It's a double edged sword for BlackBerry. If they don't have the Android player, there are a ton less apps for us. Sure, most of those apps are crap, but some are key to the success of BB10 as well as very useful for us BB10 users. There is also the ability to sideload apps that the developer hasn't ported (which means they obviously wouldn't take even more time to develop a native BB10 app).

The problem though, is that some developers that may have built a native app instead choose the much cheaper and faster route of porting their Android app. In Instagrams case, I doubt we would be getting anything from them if it weren't for the Android player.

As long as it is able to execute most-all of the popular android apps very well it will be a very positive feature.

Note that there are going to be a lot of bb native and (at first) exclusive apps in the coming year. As bb users upgrade to 10 w/ Balance, millions if not 10s of millions will be able to to download apps for the first time (who were locked down prior to balance). For those who really like bb, they get a Z or Q which are great, bb10, bb apps, and android apps too.

It is an excellent concept - we will look back one day and won't believe a business would have to develop 3 or 4 instances of the same application. I have not explored yet but thought i saw wrapping html5 is becoming a more feasible and popular approach too (still multi instances but far less overhead)?

The ability to port an Android app to BB10 with little work is a way that BlackBerry can get developers to "try out" BlackBerry World.

Once they see that they can make money, avoid pirating etc. on BlackBerry the *hope* is that the developers realize that it would be almost as easy to build a native app and gain all the native speed, gestures, BBM integration etc.

If you use an app that is an Android port and you wish it were "more" native I'd highly recommend reaching out to the developer to let them know. When they hear the interest it might just be the motivation to jump in.

The above has been an excuse since PlayBook and yet nothing of any consequence has come there.

Unless and until BB10 sells in numbers that speak to the opportunity - we will continue to be using this excuse for why there continue to be no big named apps written by devs in Native BB10.

Can you site for us an Android app of any importance that after hearing from BB either from owners or Alec Saunders - was then written natively for BB10?

Facebook and Twitter (except the parts that are integrated to hub that were written by BB), and the coming Skype and perhaps Instagram are all Android ports. I thought BB decided not to go with Android. Based on the app portfolio of consequence, you would never know it.

If I were a developer & ported my Android app to BB & people were buying it, why would I take the time to build a native app? Now if that app did really well then MAYBE I'd develop for the platform but all my existing apps would just get ported

It depends. If your Android app does sell well, (no insult intended) but you'd be foolish not to want to integrate BBM and make the app the best experience possible.

It's obviously a trade off... the time it might take vs. the ROI but that's something each developer will need to consider.

Keep in mind that the developer will likely be working on multiple titles... if they had success with 1 port, they may very well decide that for their next app they will build it natively in BB from the start. ;-)

Who cares if it's a port or not. If the application works well then I don't care. Yes it would be nice if it was native but the argument of "BB10 has no apps" goes out the window since yes it does.

Another blackberry analyst downgraded blackberry again today and the biggest reason was the lack of popular apps. According to his checks (he made a list) blackberry world only had 5% of the top 100 iOS apps and 10% of the top 100 Android apps. He admited that 3 or 4 games were added in the day since he finished his check but noted that blackberry has a long way to go. I think that blackberry needs to worrie about getting a huge number of apps and quickly as possible because that seems to be the metric that all these analysts, and in turn investers and consumers, actually care about. They don't check the quality of the apps, they just look for the titles. I think blackberry is working very hard at this but they need to come out with new anouncments on a regular basis to curb all this bad press. Consumers do base their dessisions on google searches and right now, it would only make people warry of buying a new blackberry. I have a new Z 10 and I love the phone. I really think there are tons of apps there but I'm in my mid 30s and perhaps am not as pluged in as the early 20 year olds. I don't care about instagrame but alot of people seem to. Don't worrie about native apps, get the dam things on there.

All of this is complete speculation until Z10/BB10 comes to the USA. Until then, the analysts need to hold back their criticisms on the app front. How can anyone judge without the phone being in the USA?

the android implementation will kill it for new users. only "power" users know or care about whether they're in an Android App or not and frankly, new users won't care (Android App? What is that?). They'll just get frustrated with it, like your fiance.
I like it, as it opens the door for more apps (aside from being clunky and ugly), but I wish they could have kept the UI the same or at least added some suggestions within the apps on how to navigate.

Nope - I have downloaded some very nice apps from Appworld on my Playbook that ended up being Android ports and they worked fine. If you mean frustrated like - "omg, how do I go back? Oh, swipe like this, that was easy. Cool," then yes, there will be a lot of frustrated people.

There was no issue. The UI isn't that bad and they generally work fine.

The only frustration I have with Android Apps is that I can't do that back gesture anywhere else in the OS. It drives me nuts when I try to do it and it doesn't work because I'm not in an Android app...

+1 it should be standard gesture for the entire OS. The only places I see it on the PlayBook are in Android apps and when exiting a folder. But I don't see why they limited to those circumstances.

Like stated above ,it's a great idea to populate app world quickly, native apps would be great ,but as long as the ports work as they should ,i really dont see a problem with it
Yes it would be awesome to have the same integration, but maybe with time ,devs will see the benefits of going native

Like stated above ,it's a great idea to populate app world quickly, native apps would be great ,but as long as the ports work as they should ,i really dont see a problem with it
Yes it would be awesome to have the same integration, but maybe with time ,devs will see the benefits of going native

so does Apple, so does Google.. I mean really, how many calculator apps does the world need?

The bar should be at the top. Having it at the bottom when you swipe from the top to reveal it was a horrible design decision.

the part i'm not totally clear on is how Devs can determine how successful an Android port is. I imagine that's through the standard reporting in the BBW vendor portal.

i think if Devs could see a good take rate on their ports, that might be encouragement to try native (and hopefully see an uptick in interest).

the key is how to make it very clear to devs that there's an appetite for their apps, and even more so for their apps in native form.

Gosh people, STOP BEING SO ANAL about it. JUST BE GLAD YOU HAVE APPS ALRIGHT?!?! IF YOU DON'T LIKE A PORTED APPLICATION, DO-NOT-DOWNLOAD-OR-BUY-IT!!!!!!! GOSH DAMMIT!!!!!!!

I don't get it. Quit complaining. BUG THE DEVELOPERS TO BUILD NATIVE APPS IF YOU GET SO UPSET!!! Just so you know. LEARN TO APPRECIATE!!!

everytime i try to use this gesture it keeps going to active frames am sliding diagonal but it thinks am sliding up

hi i have a lot android apps on my z10 but i can get the Android navigation bar to come up on any of it it use to be there but now cant get it back anybody to help!?